VARIETY – After three seasons of simmering jealousy, Ragnar Lothbrok’s (Travis Fimmel) rivalry with his brother Rollo (Clive Standen) finally came to a head in a brutal battle in the April 21 epiode — but the long-awaited clash had an unexpected result, with Rollo and his Frankish forces defeating Ragnar and his Viking warriors. The episode then jumped forward several years, revealing that Ragnar left Kattegat after his loss, leaving his sons — Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen), Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith), Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) and Sigurd (David Lindstron) to grow up without their father, curious about his fate and (in some cases) resentful of his absence.
Variety spoke to “Vikings” creator Michael Hirst about the events of the midseason finale, the introduction of Ragnar’s adult sons and what’s ahead in the back half of Season 4. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Why did now feel like the right time for Ragnar and Rollo’s confrontation, and why was it important for Rollo to win?
It was always going to happen. Rollo had rebelled before, when he tried to creep out from under Ragnar’s shadow — the Viking idea is that fame is everything, to be remembered for things, and he just felt that he was never going to be remembered. And then the Seer had told him that if he went to Paris that something extraordinary would happen. And I remember telling Clive that, and Clive was very excited by the idea, because Clive had thought himself that his character was always put upon and always beaten. But I said, “if you look at history, history tells you something different; the character you’re playing becomes one of the most impressive people in Dark Ages Frankia and establishes an empire, basically,” so I’m only following history. Whatever the psychology is and whatever I’m supposed to do myself, I’m actually trying to follow a historical line, because I knew that Rollo became a Count, and that was going to happen because I try to be as truthful as I can be.
Ragnar is comprehensively defeated by Rollo and his comprehensive defeat changes everything. It changes the nature of Ragnar’s life, what he chooses to do afterwards, and it has this wonderfully unexpected texture, that Rollo is victorious. Someone told me, “whatever I thought about Rollo, I didn’t expect him to be triumphant, but when this happened, I kind of liked it. I could respect it, because I expected to be sympathetic to Ragnar and yet when Rollo is victorious I kind of liked that.” And I understand that; I feel that myself. I feel good for Rollo — he deserves it.